“…no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together.” Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, paragraph 32
Choices and chances. One can lead to the other. The choices our donors make to help support and sustain the ministries of the Sisters of the Holy Cross lead every day to chances and opportunities for people who otherwise may have none.
In Uganda, as elsewhere, poverty is not a choice. But a group of about 40 people in the western part of the country took a chance on putting their collective hearts and minds together to lift themselves out of poverty and change the lives of their families and community. Along the way, a grant from the Ministry With the Poor Fund is helping to lead them to success.
Farming and agriculture are essential, life-sustaining activities in Uganda, providing nourishment and income. When a person has the skills to farm crops and raise livestock, it can mean the difference between a life of desperation and one in which basic needs—and more—are met.
This desire to live closer to the earth and provide for oneself and one’s family led the 40 people to form a cooperative known as Kyamugenyi Kweterana. The group is part of a church near the Sisters of the Holy Cross community in Kyarusozi. They came together out of a shared hope that they could end their struggles against poverty by collaboratively raising chickens and growing crops.
Potatoes and onions
Sister Daisy Kabuleeta, CSC, was praying at the church when she came across Kyamugenyi Kweterana. “After Mass, I saw a group of people sitting under a tree, and I was curious to know what was going on.” Sister Daisy sought the team leader, who explained their goals and dreams to be self-sufficient. “At that point, this group had almost no financial resources. They had very good ideas but no funds. Individuals were saving as little as half a dollar per person.”
Sister Daisy knew she could help. She applied for and received Ministry With the Poor funding so the group could launch a training project to teach every member skills related to livestock and crops.
Since some of the members knew how to grow potatoes and onions, these were the first crops planted. Those who had knowledge of cultivation techniques taught their skills to the others. The first potato harvest was bountiful. Later, the group bought 100 chicks. Eggs from this venture fed their families and provided income.
Of course, the project was not without its challenges. In 2020, due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the group had difficulty purchasing and transporting feed and vaccines for the chickens. They pulled together to use their funds wisely, thus allowing them to purchase food for their starving families and pay for needed medical care.
“Even early on, as the first potatoes were harvested and the group sold about four sacks, the benefits were being felt,” said Sister Daisy. “Members were able to buy some educational materials for their children, and it was a big treat for some when they could buy enough meat for their families on Christmas.”
Savings group created
Income earned from the project has helped many of the women pay off school debts for their children. They have also been able to expand their efforts by creating a SACCO (Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization). In a SACCO, members agree to pool and save their money and provide loans to one another at reasonable interest rates. In this way, members can access needed funds to begin business initiatives or pay for unexpected expenses. SACCO members are the owners, and they decide how their money will be used to benefit one another.
“When my husband and I separated 10 years ago, our children became my responsibility,” says member Alice Bonabana, 66. “I didn’t know what to do. I was already poor and had nothing, and we couldn’t even manage a meal a day for all of us.”
Then she joined Kyamugenyi Kweterana.
“I was the ninth person to join without a single coin!” says Alice. “Over time, I started saving as little as 500 shillings (approximately 14 cents U.S.) after selling some avocados. I was able to borrow from the group and started up a stall where I sold cabbage and other vegetables.”
Now, says Alice, “Look at my children and grandchildren. Some of them are in school, they are not hungry, and they can even have two meals a day.” She and the other members are grateful that the choices made to donate to Ministry With the Poor have given them and their families chances to thrive and survive.
Help the sisters continue to support life-giving projects such as the Kyamugenyi Kweterana group. Please consider a gift to Ministry With the Poor, where 100 percent of donations directly serve people in need. To donate select Ministry With the Poor in the “My gift is for” section. Thank you!